Brown joins second legal challenge to executive orders on immigration

Brown and 30 other universities argue in a March 31 amicus brief that the revised executive order on immigration threatens the institutions’ ability to fulfill their educational missions by attracting talented students and scholars from across the globe.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On March 31, Brown University joined 30 other prominent colleges and universities in filing a brief supporting a legal challenge to the revised executive order on immigration issued by the Trump administration on March 6.

The amicus brief argues in support of the plaintiffs in a case underway in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Maryland had issued a preliminary injunction against the executive order. That order, titled “Protecting the National from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” suspended for 90 days entry into the U.S. by nationals of six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The universities’ March 31 amicus brief follows an earlier brief, filed on Feb. 13 by Brown and 16 other research universities urging a federal court to grant injunctive relief from the enforcement of aspects of the original Jan. 27 executive order on immigration.

Today's brief cites the executive order’s significant burden on students, faculty and scholars as well as the impediments the order posts to the universities’ ability to fulfill their educational missions, which rely on contributions from individuals from across the globe who add unique perspectives and talents to the schools’ campus communities.

“Recognizing the invaluable contributions of international students, faculty, staff and scholars, amici make significant efforts to attract the most talented individuals from around the globe,” the brief states. “The executive order at issue here, like its predecessor, threatens amici’s ability to continue to attract these individuals and thus to meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders… American universities are already feeling its damaging effects.”

The brief notes that Brown has more than 20 students and scholars from the countries affected by the order and counts more than three percent of its faculty as international. It argues that international students, faculty and scholars are vital to the U.S., contribute greatly to American higher education and make significant scientific, technological, social and political contributions to the nation and to the world.

The brief acknowledged the need for national safety and security, but argued that safety and security can be addressed “in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities.”

Brown’s participation in filing both amicus briefs follows a number of recent University actions in response to the executive orders. To support students and scholars from the seven countries included in the order, Brown has offered access to immigration and legal advising; expanded opportunities to remain on campus throughout their time at Brown; and housing assistance and other resources during break periods. For those who are prevented from traveling to campus, the University is exploring the use of virtual teaching and learning platforms to ensure uninterrupted participation in the Brown educational experience. 

In addition, University President Christina Paxson signed letters expressing concern about the effects of the executive order from the Association of American Universities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a group of peer university presidents.

In a Feb. 3 letter describing the University’s actions to the campus community, Paxson said that Brown has made its position on the original executive order crystal clear: “It runs counter to our commitment to free inquiry and the advancement of knowledge; it is antithetical in letter and spirit to our insistence that individual students and scholars should be free to pursue their scholarship and learning without fear of intimidation or discrimination of any kind; and it contradicts our unconditional rejection of every form of bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia and harassment.”

Brown filed today’s brief jointly with Boston University, Brandeis University, Bucknell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury College, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Rice University, Stanford University, Tufts University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, Washington University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Yale University.

The March 31 amicus brief is available here.